Updated: Jan 21, 2022
The deadlift is regarded by many to be the king of all exercises. If you were to pick just one to build total-body strength and power, this would be it. And for good reason too. The deadlift works the most muscles throughout the body out of nay exercise you can do in the gym. From your calves all the way up to your traps.
It's an absolutely killer exercise you can use to express your muscular strength, and should be a staple in your strength training program if you're the average lifter and it's safe for you to perform.
However, many people do not know how to perform the deadlift. And we're not just talking about keeping the bar close to you, or keeping your spine neutral, we're talking specifically about what you do in between your reps.
We're talking about bouncing the bar off the ground in between each rep. Some will tell you that it's better to bounce as you can lift more weight. Others will say that it's dangerous.
In this post, we'll go over the pros and cons of bouncing the bar, and draw a conclusion based off of that.
Pros of Bouncing the Bar on a Deadlift
You Can Do More Reps
The primary reason that people perform touch and go deadlifts is to do more reps with higher weight. If you've ever performed touch and go deadlifts, you will have found that you can do way more reps than you usually can with a given weight.
This is because you're generating momentum from bouncing the bar off the ground, which helps you drive the weight back up. It allows you to accumulate much more total workout volume over the course of the session as you can lift the weight for more reps.
Since you can do more reps, technically this means that you're placing more mechanical tension on your muscles. Mechanical tension is basically the amount of weight that we're placing on our muscles. And by doing touch and go, we're technically able to place apply more mechanical tension.
Now, mechanical tension has been shown to be the primary driver of muscular hypertrophy, however this does not necessarily mean that touch and go deadlifts are better for hypertrophy. There are other factors that we have to consider.
Usually More Time Under Tension
Due to your reps happening much more rapidly one after another, you're also placing your muscles under tension, making them work for longer. Basically, they're continually working, whereas they'd get a short break between reps with absolutely zero stress for a second or two as you reset your deadlift.
This increased time under tension can potentially cause more muscle damage, and lead to more muscle growth over time as the muscles are essentially working for longer.
May be Better for Training Specific Sticking Points
Since the reps are easier off the floor, you can generally lift either more weight, or do more reps. This allows you to heavily overload the second half of the deadlift, or the lockout. If you're a powerlifter, or just a person who wants to get stronger at your primary lifts and find that you struggle with the lockout, this is an advanced technique that you may want to consider.
The first half of the deadlift won't be trained as much, but you can specifically target the second half of the movement with heavier loads by doing touch and go deadlifts instead of resetting them in between.
This is a very advanced training technique, and you should definitely do it with care. Seek professional advice if you are not sure.
Cons of Bouncing the Bar on a Deadlift
Technique may be Compromised
One of the major drawbacks of performing deadlifts with the touch and go style is that you can increase your chances of injury. When you bounce the bar off the ground during a deadlift, you can very easily throw your technique off, as your body may be completely unprepared for the split second that it loses tension before immediately having to withstand the weight of the barbell again in your hands.
When you bounce the bar off the ground, you could accidentally change the position of the bar relative to your center of mass, or worse, change the position of your body, and have you holding onto the heavy weight in a dangerous position. Spines can start to round and the bar can start to sway back and forth a little if you’re not careful.
Even one bad accident under heavy load could prevent you from training properly for the rest of your life. It can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
To combat this if you are going to do touch and go deadlifts, we‘d recommmed starting out with a light weight and getting used to bouncing it off the floor before loading the bar to any kind of heavy weight. This way, you’ll reduce the chances of injury whilst you’re still learning the form and basics of the movement, and prepare yourself for heavier lifting.
You Don't Train the Initial Portion of the Lift
One of the main reasons we do deadlifts are to build total body pulling strength right off the floor from a dead stop. Hence the exercise name, the deadlift.
However, if you bounce the bar off the ground in between your reps, you are not really giving yourself a chance to do this section of the lift at all. You’re letting the momentum of the bounce aid you in the initial portion of the pull.
This means that you're essentially neglecting the most important part of the lift. You won't build too much strength in the first half of the lift by doing touch and go deadlifts.
And even if you're able to build great lockout strength, it won't matter if you can't pull the bar off the floor. So make sure you're abel to get it off the floor first.
You Don't Do a Lot of the Work
Since you're allowing the bar to generate momentum by bouncing it off the ground, you're reducing the amount of work that you're doing. So yes, while touch and go deadlifts do increase the time under tension for your muscles, they actually wound up doing less overall work than they would if you had done full reset deadlifts. That's why you're able to do more reps and use more weight.
So even though you're technically able to place more mechanical tension on your muscles, gravity and momentum does a lot of the work. You're limiting your overall work volume, even if it means you're doing more reps. And the reps that you do aren't as effective as your full reset deadlifts are.
Basically, you get more out of your time by doing full reset deadlifts as opposed to touch and go reps. And if you're looking to build proper deadlifting or pulling strength, reset deadlifts will also likely be the better choice for you.
Less Applicable to Powerlifting
If you're a powerlifter, you pretty much do not want to ever be doing touch and go deadlifts. It's not applicable to your powerlifting. You are training to pull as much weight for a single rep. And by training touch and go deadlifts, you're not working the first or initial part of the pull. It doesn't matter how strong your lockout is if you're not able to pull the bar off the ground.
In a powerlifting competition, the amount of reps that you can perform using the touch and go method doesn't matter. You're only trying to lift as much weight as possible for a single rep. And lifting heavy, reset deadlifts is going to get you there the quickest.
Doing reset deadlifts can also help you train you deadlift set up better, and help you find your most optimal lifting stance and position. Many people struggle to find their optimal lifting stance and position for a long time. And by increasing the number of times you have to redo your deadlift setup, you're going to gradually get better and better at it.
So Should You Do Touch and Go Deadlifts?
Well, looking at the pros and cons of this lifting style, we'd say for most of the population, no. They don't provide enough benefits to the average lifter for them to be too beneficial in any way. They increase the chances of injury, aren't applicable to powerlifting and reduce the amount of work that you do overall.
There aren't very many times that they would actually be useful. Only very, very advanced lifters looking to improve their deadlift lockout strength and know exactly what they're doing should be using the touch and go deadlift. Otherwise, it doesn't really have a time and place in your training program.
Instead, most people would benefit much more from performing the regular reset deadlifts, as it helps you train your deadlift setup, and full range of motion more efficiently. It gives you more bang for your buck per rep.
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